Sunday, April 30, 2023

Taking a Breath

I can honestly say that the art residency this year has been one of the best experiences of my life. I have left it with new friends, better skills and greater confidence. It was very hard to leave a world that I knew (pop music education), and strike out without knowing what would be on the horizon. I will be doing a lot more drawing, and music too. How odd to live a life where re-booting is a common phenomenon!

Anyway, recording with my brother James has led me to start to root through the store of artwork and magazines in boxes under the stairs. Periodically, I rummage through it all and chuck piles of stuff into the recycling bin. This time, I was looking for the book I made in my final year at Brighton Art College, A Handbook of Suburban Styles, where my poem Food first appeared alongside a drawing of a ghostly dancing Chef. It was called Ken Wood And The Chefs, after the then well-known food mixer the Kenwood Chef. 

After The Smartees split up, I went back to being a happy nothing. I was working in a shop, drawing, occasionally making comics, living day to day with no future planned. We had learned that as punks: do not expect anything, and you'll never be disappointed. You'll be dead by the time you're thirty, anyway. I had been an accidental musician for a few years, first in Joby and the Hooligans and then by evolution, The Smartees. The End.

One day, Carl Evans, who had joined The Smartees on guitar, came round. He'd contributed a song called Sweetie to the group and he wanted to know if I'd like to form a band with him. I was absolutely astonished because I didn't think I was a 'proper' bass player. He'd written music for the Food poem, and he played it to me. We also had Thrush, which I'd written for The Smartees, so we had three songs.

'What should we call ourselves?' I asked. He looked at me as though I was an idiot. 

'Well, The Chefs', he replied. 

A few doors down from the house where I was staying lived a Mancunian drummer called Rod. We asked him to be our drummer, and he said yes. So I was in a band again, my own (shared) one too.

And here is some of the artwork for posters, badges and the sleeve design of our first EP on the local label Attrix Records. Lots of this didn't get used, of course. The rest of the stuff I was looking for is buried too deep into the cupboard. That's for a rainy day.

By the way, look out for a vinyl Chefs album one of these days.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023


Sorry I haven't posted for a while- been busy Extinction Rebelling, recording my brother, meeting Lindy Morrison and Gina Birch for lunch, meeting my other brother for lunch, wrapping up the ECDC project (last gallery day tomorrow!), helping friends, and doing the much-needed minimum amount of housework to even begin to catch up after being an artist full-time for three months. I have learned so much!

I hope the Law Enforcement Officer will come in to collect his portrait tomorrow, and I think I've even found the steel pan player- the last one to deliver.

Anyway by way of apology, here are some pelicans. They are beautiful creatures with unfortunate horrible natures. They also grunt and snort in a disconcertingly porcine way. These are from St James's Park, where their curiosity at the Extinction Rebellion die-in overcame their reticence.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Sorry If You Think There's Something To be Sorry For

Dominic Raab's apology set to music.

More Portraits Delivered

First thing, I delivered the portrait to the newspaper seller at Earl's Court tube station, and last thing I delivered the portrait to Nick, the sound engineer at The Troubadour. I also discovered how to contact the steel pan player Jerome, who apparently plays in a local band. the Law Enforcement officer didn't show up to pick his up yesterday but he may have been deployed elsewhere.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023


I'm not sure if I've posted this- Gary Crowley's second compilation of Punk and New Wave, the CD version of which features 24 Hours by The Chefs. I've been recording James again today. We're working really hard at these songs so they come out as well as they possibly can.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Nuts in May

McCookerybook and Rotifer

Nuts in May

In Whitley Bay.

The Cull Of The Lindt Chocolate Bunnies

Where are they all then? I had plans to go out and hoover up all the remaining chocolate bunnies to see me through till Christmas, and they have vanished into thin air. 

Have they been melted down to make the middles for disgusting Lindors? 

Are they stacked up on a pallet heading to TKMaxx? 

Have they been ground into hardcore to make a base for future motorways?

I demand to know, NOW!!!

Ebay Ephemera

I was doing a vanity search yesterday (an occasional indulgence) and found these. A ticket from a gig The Monochrome Set played at Kingston Poly where Helen and the Horns did one of our first ever gigs- if not the first- in 1983 (not 1984 as the seller says). That was where I realised that we had something that people liked- the audience listened right from the start, all the way through. 

Three cheers for the Monochrome Set for giving us a start. They did the same for Bananarama, apparently. 

The next thing I found was a copy of Shingles, my first published comic. I rounded up my friends and asked them to contribute anything they could think of, and they did: even a recipe for Spotted Dick. Rather than costing the cover price of 50 pence, this one costs £38.57 plus £30 postage, and coms from the United States. I wonder how it got there? Shall I release the small pile of them that I have under the stairs, and upend the market?

I was having a look because I have some band memorabilia that I'm thinking of selling. I've had to take a sabbatical from eBay because they insist on only paying money into a bank account and I haven't got a McCookerybook one. I'll have to set up a new profile which is a pain in the bum- but there's such a pile of stuff upstairs, including a load of vintage clothes, that I think I'll have to do it. As with anything tech these days I know it will be massively time-consuming and inconvenient, so I'll have to set aside a week. Either that or just decide to donate the lot to a charity shop and let them have the profits. Maybe I'll do that instead.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Online Exhibition

Next Gallery day is Thursday 12-6. I've just seen the first slug of the year, and a wren and a goldfinch in the back yard. I'm glad I planted that tree. I've been editing one of the tracks that I recorded with my brother James, too.

Meanwhile, here's an online version of my exhibition:

Saturday, April 15, 2023

The Drawing Lady

I went back to the market again to find the fruit selling woman. I thought I spotted her, and took over the drawing, noting that I hadn't got a very good likeness. 'That's my sister!', said the woman behind the stall. 'She's around the corner: come with me!'. Sure enough, there was the true likeness (!) leaning into a car and talking to someone. She was delighted, and I was delighted too. On the way back to the market, a chap was pottering about in a huge van that the produce had been delivered in. 

'Are you the drawing lady?' he asked. 'Yes', I said, for verily, I am.

The carpet shop guy wasn't there, but I left his portrait for him with the man in the shop.

Only three more to go! The newspaper seller was there, but I hadn't got his pic with me so I'll do that another time. Gina came with me on Thursday and hung out for a while with Sara (all the way from Brighton!), her friend, and the electrician fixing thinsg in the Gallery who we had a nice chat with. Photograph of him taken for possible portrait.

Later that day, I was sitting talking to Peter Tainsh and I saw a seemingly familiar face across the road. I ran over and said 'I think I might have done your portrait'. The Law Enforcement Officer came over to the gallery and said 'No, that's not me', when he saw the drawing from a distance. Then 'That IS me!' he said. And here he is, smiling.

Finally, I got a lovely message on Instagram from one of the paramedics that I drew, who had just seen the portrait of her and her friend outside The Hoarder Café on ambulance strike day. I like the way the portraits gradually percolate their way through to people. Do I mind if I never find out if the recipients get their portraits? No, not really. Some of them may 'stick' en route though it's nice to be thanked, but the thanks are all really mine for them stopping what they were doing for that moment and allowing me to take their photograph.

So I haven't taken a lot of photos of people with their portraits, partly because of the nature of the project. Maybe next time! 

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Eating Crisps and Watching Magnum

It's been a productive week. On Monday I recorded the guitar parts of three songs by The Chefs, and yesterday and today James came round to play on them. Lots of concentration later, we know the two guitars will sound good together. We'll do more recording next week.

First thing this morning I went to see the Ai Wei Wei exhibition at the Design Museum. It was inspirational in its seamless incorporation of visual art and politics. The star of the show was the perfect glass construction helmet, but then I would say that wouldn't I, after what I've been drawing for the past three months.

It was odd to approach High Street Kensington from the other direction: last time, I walked up from Earl's Court in a frantic mission to buy a picture frame from Wilko, and managed to nab the very last one.

Anyway, now I'm watching Magnum and eating crisps. I should probably be eating a Magnum Classic instead.

Next time, next time.

Monday, April 10, 2023

The Salvation Army Annexe, Canterbury

I've just realised that I didn't write anything about this gig. Everything was very busy and unfamiliar the week before, and again the week after, but the night deserves a write-up, no matter how tardy.

At the beginning of the year, I had resolved to play only higher profile gigs, and less of them, to up my profile and professionalism. Then Rob Halcrow contacted me about the Salvation Army Annexe ('holds a maximum of 15 people') and my resolve melted away, to be replaced by curiosity and the sheer charm of the idea. Plus, I'd never seen Picturebox play and they'd be playing as well. No question of it!

It really is a titchy venue, down a back lane and with a stubborn 'Closed' sign on the door. Tea and biscuits were being served, and there were little dishes with sweets on the tables. We sound-checked and chatted; a few people showed up, including Lee Edgington who had come all the way from Dover.

Picturbox were great. They are strongly influenced by kid's TV themes, and are excellent musicians. We all really enjoyed them a lot. Here they are in full flow, performing a song with my favourite lyrics:

Here's my bit. I hope to go back again later in the year. Big thanks to Robert for the invitation!


I've spent most of the day recording guitar parts for the songs by The Chefs that me and my brother James are going to record together. All morning, I wrestled with the wrong guitar. When I picked up the right guitar this afternoon, all the tension ebbed away. I haven't got the parts right yet, but there's enough there for James to record over tomorrow, and I know I'll be able to get my parts right afterwards.

I don't think I understood when I started the ECDC portrait residency how much it would change my outlook. Do I regret moving from being a community musician into being a lecturer on music courses? 

Yes and no. I did some big research projects, the PhD that became the book The Lost Women of Rock Music and the subsequent research that became She's at the Controls. Both of those, plus the articles that I wrote, the conference papers and the teaching, I considered to be political activities. I met, learned from and taught some fantastically talented and/or interesting people. I am also hugely proud of the greatest proportion of students that I contributed to the education of.

The monetisation of Higher Education has wrecked its potential. When students pressurise you to give them good grades just because they are paying, and your managers  and sometimes students, shout at you (yes, that has happened) when you refuse to pass really poor work, because it's an insult to people whose work is good and sometimes excellent, well... you risk losing your integrity, and sometimes you feel that's all you've got. Cheating is rife. The whole kit and caboodle is slippery as a fish in water

As soon as I started the art residency, I understood and remembered immediately how an artist slots into a local community, and what their function is. It's about encouragement, not measurement. Competition between workshop participants is pointless: even children could see this when I worked with music on estates and in schools. The groups of people understand that the more collaboration that happens (not always creative collaboration: sometimes openness-and-friendship collaboration), the more satisfying both the process and the product will be. 

This was a fulfilling, enlightening and energising project. Who knows what will come next?


I would love to have been able to get a ticket to see the Vermeer exhibition in Amsterdam. He was truly a brilliant painter.

Perhaps people feel for his subjects all the more from having been through lockdown- all those interiors with their air of claustrophobia and intimacy.

Friday, April 07, 2023

A Rest Day

What a tiring week it's been- but a very nice one.

It's Bandcamp Friday today- please take a listen to my music here:

Meanwhile, I'll be firmly attached to the sofa. I haven't written anything for a few days because I've been in the Gallery, handing out more portraits and generally arting about, including a gallery unplugged concert. More about that this weekend.